While most residents of Ittoqqortoormiit still hunt, only the younger ones without families can make a living this way. Others support themselves through tourism or running local amenities such as the village school and general store.
Locals have set up a travel agency, Nanu Travel, though few visitors venture out to this isolated outpost. Most of the company’s custom comes from TV crews who go there to film the pristine wilderness, including polar bears, seals and walrus.
Nanu Travel helped Roland and his wife Claudia organise their trip to the town. Over 19 days they climbed peaks, explored the coastline, accompanied guides on a seal hunting trip and went on a three-day expedition. They travelled about on dog sleds or cross-country skis, camping in a tent or staying in the town’s self-catering guest house.
“There are some big peaks, but you don’t have to take it to the extreme,” said Roland. “We visited some mountains close by which were simple to climb and had a low avalanche risk.
“It’s always important to do a lot of research and make sure you visit in the right season. “Some people go early in the year to see the Northern Lights, but I’d recommend leaving it a bit later.”
Roland’s visit spanned the end of April and into May, when rainfall is below average and it’s light for much of the time. Although temperatures dipped as low as -20C at night, the cold is bearable with the right clothing - although the wind is always ferocious.
The key to enjoying your time in Ittoqqortoormiit is to keep an open mind about your plans. “If the weather is bad, you might not be able to go out - and even your flight home may be delayed,” said Roland. “You just have to go with the flow.”
On the flipside, a willingness to be spontaneous can also pay dividends, as Roland and Claudia found when locals invited them to go ice fishing on a nearby lake. After setting up camp on the lake’s banks, the locals helped them to drill a hole through the 140cm-thick ice to reach the water. They spent two happy two days - and nights - hauling in Arctic Grayling, sharing their catch with the families camping nearby.
“When the weather is fine and it’s light, they’re out - it doesn’t matter if it’s night,” said Roland. “At 2am in the morning, you’ll see children out playing on the rooftops (one of the few places not covered in deep snow when we visited). The people live more with rhythm of nature there.
“For me Ittoqqortoormiit is like a jewel,’ he added. ‘It’s remarkable to to see how they’ve balanced the traditions of their ancestors, while still embracing modernity.”